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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #78, Dec 2014 - AT&T Makes More Moves To Beef Up Prepaid Programs
December 01, 2014

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - December 2014 Issue #78


Prepaid wireless is a growing and truly exciting industry.  At I try to provide you with in-depth information that isn't readily available anywhere else.  The content is original, and created from firsthand experience working in the prepaid wireless industry for over a decade.

This monthly email provides you with a quick glance at what's trending in the news so that you can easily keep informed.  I believe in brief, to-the-point summaries/commentary so that you can move onto other tasks in your day.  Each snippet includes a link to the original story should you be interested in the full details.

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AT&T Adds Data Throttling To GoPhone To Enable Unlimited Marketing

If you're on a $45 or $60 GoPhone plan, rather than getting cut off from data after you hit your plan allowance, you'll now get unlimited data at a very reduced speed.  Although it's much slower, you'll still be fully capable of seamless email checking in the background, though Internet access will be painfully slow.  This not only allows AT&T to market the plans as unlimited, but also better aligns the plans with the way Cricket works.

It's interesting to note that AT&T recently announced that it will NOT be operating its Cricket brand as a completely separate entity as it had promised following the acquisition.  To leverage "the mother ship" it makes sense to operate all wireless brands under one entity.  As a result, expect to see better alignment between GoPhone and Cricket in the coming year.  This new strategy makes a lot more sense, as it will be operationally more efficient, which is more critical than ever in a market that is seeing rapidly declining margins.

Cricket Changes Phone Unlocking Policies
Prepaid Reviews

Effective this month, Cricket is requiring customers to stay with them for 6 months (rather than 4 months previously) before they'll unlock your phone.  The reality is that although we all dislike locked phones, it helps carriers recoup costs, whether it's partial subsidies on hardware, or customer acquisition (i.e. marketing, dealer spiffs, etc.).

In other words, this is not an attempt to be evil, but rather to maintain a profitable and sustainable business, which ultimately allows them to offer competitively priced plans.  Personally, I don't think sticking with a carrier for 6 months is unreasonable at all.  Changing providers before that point really would be a pain, and likely costly for everyone.  If they made it anywhere near 12 months, I would feel very differently for sure!

AT&T Buys Mexico Wireless Carrier Iusacell For $2.5B
Atlanta Journal Constitution

International expansion is clearly the next means available for large carriers to grow, and Mexico is clearly a fantastic fit given its existing relationship with the U.S. (read: immigrants & travelers).  This acquisition will enable AT&T to garnish a strong competitive advantage.  Hopefully the deal will close successfully!

Verizon Beefs Up Prepaid Smartphone Lineup With LG Transpyre
Android Community
Verizon continues to lag behind every other major carrier in the country when it comes to prepaid.  Clearly they're holding onto their contract business as long as possible.  That said, this year they have slowly added smartphones and 4G access to their prepaid lineup.  Here we have an extremely capable quad-core 4.5" screen Android smartphone for $100 off contract.  For customers craving prepaid, but set on sticking with Verizon, it's great to see your options continuing to expand, albeit very slowly!

Verizon Launches Mexico & Canada Prepaid Add-On

Verizon prepaid customers can now purchase a $10 add-on that gets you 1,000 minutes to cell phones and landlines in Canada and Mexico.  This is actually a very competitive price point, which is surprising for Verizon.  I suspect it's a relatively inexpensive offering for them given their negotiating power and vast relationships.  This is definitely a much lower risk for Verizon than competing on prepaid plan pricing at this point in time.

Republic Wireless Tops Consumer Reports As Top Prepaid Carrier
WRAL Tech Wire

Republic Wireless and Ting are both smaller carriers that run on the Sprint network who scored very high on customer satisfaction.  The reality is that smaller carriers have been able to build business models from the ground up that focus on low costs and high levels of customer service as key strategic differentiators.  That said, there's always a risk that these smaller carriers won't be able to compete long term, and customers get stuck looking for a new service plan (and potentially a new phone) with very little notice, as we've seen occur over the past couple of years.

Personally, I would stick with smaller carriers that use 4G LTE phones that can be unlocked to work on virtually every carrier.  If they'll using older 3G CDMA phones, there's a lot less flexibility if a small carrier disappears quickly.  That said, the risk is overall quite low, and smaller providers can offer great value and service, so prospective customers shouldn't immediately discount them un-viable options.

Sprint's Boost, and T-Mobile's GoSmart Offer Double-Data Promotions

These data promotions are definitely great value; they turn reasonably good plans into great plans!  If you're an existing customer please make sure to call them to get on these plans (you won't be automatically migrated), and if you're a prospective customer, it's definitely a good time to make a move.

Carriers tend to authorize these promotions on a month-by-month basis depending on results, and although they could conceivably be continued for a number of months, the reality is that you'll never know for sure when they'll end, so hesitate and you may lose out.

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

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